On Tuesday, February 21st, SB-166 was heard at the Nevada Legislature in front of the Senate Education Committee. Sponsored by Senator Patricia Farley, the bill will establish a program to survey public school students on the use and abuse of drugs and alcohol.
Roseman University faculty testified on behalf of the bill, and shared results of the pilot program developed by the Roseman University Team. The pilot program, funded completely through community support, uses the NV: SSLS, a comprehensive instrument measuring usage, perceptions of risk and attitudes towards a range of drugs, including seven different prescription drugs. The study, if adopted and used across the state, would identify drug trends in real-time at the community, neighborhood and school level to provide data-driven approaches to effective drug abuse prevention programming. The bill was also supported by expert testimony including that by Mr. David Marlon, CEO of Solutions Recovery, and Dr. Carol Boyd, a nationally recognized substance abuse researcher and professor in the Department of Health Behavior and Biological Sciences at the University of Michigan School of Nursing.
While there is no silver bullet among drug preventions strategies, we are encouraged that the legislature is considering this bill, which will lead to community-tailored prevention education strategies that can be monitored annually to determine effectiveness. Roseman supports this initiative given our decade-long work in the area of drug misuse and abuse research, education, advocacy, and community drug collection initiatives conducted by Roseman’s Research Center on Substance Abuse and Depression and student-led Drug Abuse and Awareness Team (DAAT).
Our faculty and students are on the front lines with educators, parents, government agencies, and community organizations in the development and implementation of prevention programs that have made an impact in communities across the state. With more robust data, the university, community partners, and other key influencers can more accurately formulate targeted prevention programming to address unique challenges of Nevada’s urban, rural and frontier communities.
More than 20 million people in the United States have a substance abuse disorder involving sedatives, tranquilizers, non-heroin opioids, stimulants, hallucinogens, cannabis, cocaine, heroin, inhalants, or other drugs. And todays’ youth – Nevada’s youth — are part of that 20 million. Alcohol, marijuana and prescription pills are the drugs most currently used and abused — and undeniably, these drugs can lead to addiction. Fifty percent of illicit drug use in the United States is by youth under the age of 21 years. The state of Nevada ranks fourth in overdose deaths.
Since 2008, more Clark County residents have died each year from opioid overdoses than firearms or motor vehicle traffic accidents. In 2012-2014, the mortality rate from opioid overdoses in Clark County was almost 70% higher than the national rate. The opioid epidemic alone creates substantial burden on health care utilization and expenditures. In Clark County, opioid use and misuse were implicated in over 1,700 emergency visits and 1,700 inpatient hospitalizations annually 2013–2015. We also know that people addicted to prescription opioids are 40 times more likely to become addicted to heroin.
Nevada is not alone in having inadequate data on adolescents’ drug use. Most, if not all States use surveys that are too broad and fail to adequately cover illicit drug use. The most often used State-supported surveys are particularly flawed in detecting the most life-threatening poly-drug use behaviors associated with prescription drug use, particularly in combination with alcohol.
The proposed legislation – SB 166 — raises the bar significantly. If passed, this legislation will be critical in informing public policy and demonstrating expertise on the national stage. What is proposed in the bill is a robust, sensitive and efficient means of keeping up with rapidly changing drug trends, particularly on a local community level.
Drug addiction continues to be a national and local crisis. While the drug of choice for many youth changes over time, new drugs always emerge. As parents, teachers, legislators, citizens and researchers our job is to protect our youth. It is our hope that SB-166 is enacted to let us do that.
Special Advisor to the President
Roseman University of Health Sciences